Although officially out since October of 2010, there has been an incredibly long delay for Beautiful Imperfection’s release date in the United States. As of September 6, Asa’s sophomore album will begin to get the recognition it deserves over in good ol’ ‘murica. So since the album is hitting the States officially for the first time, a review of the record is in order.
Hailing from Nigeria, Asa is a national treasure. Her eclectic style has enough diversity to attract people from all different musical preferences. At times she’s pop, other times she has a soul vibe, and every so often even traces of reggae are noticeable. Beautiful Imperfection is a proper showcase of all these styles and more, and will not fail to please audiences worldwide.
The album can be summed up in one word: infectious. Asa’s constantly catchy melodies and thoughtful lyrics keep me singing long after the record has stopped playing. Also, there is a perfect blend of emotions. There are tracks that keep everyone in the room on their feet dancing (“Why Can’t We”), but others that serve as time for reflection on some of the bigger issues we all face (“Questions”). From the high highs to the low lows, Asa knows how to keep listeners engaged.
The first song, “Why Can’t We”, is a perfect feel-good way to start off any album. A bouncy and guitar-driven intro flows straight into Asa’s effortlessly flawless vocals. Her at ease nature compliments the themes of the track, promoting a hopeful mentality for life and for the album itself. “Be My Man” follows a similar blueprint to “Why Can’t We”, except this time throwing in an electric organ reminiscent to a jam/2nd wave ska fusion. Soulful background vocals throughout each chorus and the brass solo are the defining points for a track devoted to Asa’s take on what being a woman means to her. Heck, it’s convincing enough to even make me proud to be a woman (whatever that is supposed to entail).
One feature Asa can sport over other pop stars currently on the scene is her roots-driven approach to particular songs. On tracks such as “Bimpe”, “Ore”, and “Brode Ole”, Asa sings in her native tongue, Yoruba. In doing so, Beautiful Imperfection transcends cultures and allows Asa to combine her worlds into one musical work.
“The Way I Feel” sounds like a jazz bar/60s cop show/noir film hybrid track, and that is one of the best compliments I think I could ever give a song. Asa’s smoky vocals, horn section, and straightforward beat intertwine to create the highlight of the album. If there is one track that you should hear to get an idea of what this Nigerian artist is like, this is the one.
The next track, “Ok Ok” starts out with a southern blues guitar part and a conga beat barraged by reverb. This interesting mix is quickly paired with vocals, and the track progresses in a typical (but well done) fashion. “Dreamer girl” brings us back down again with a song about a young girl’s aspirations. Although it is a slower track, the catchy chorus and dreamlike flow make you feel like you’re merely flying through a mountain range in autumn with no worries whatsoever (…or at least that’s what I gathered from it).
Showing a much more vulnerable side of Asa, “Baby Gone” is a perfect example of the singer’s ability to completely open herself to fans through her music. You can almost hear the regret in her voice when singing lines such as, “Can I say I’m sorry? Will it change?” Right when you’re emotionally slouching from “Baby Gone” and thinking about the one that got away, “Broda Ole” comes on and brings back Asa in a positive light. Although I must admit I don’t know one Yoruba word, I imagine this song to be very uplifting and motivational in it’s content. So until I am proven wrong, this song is the final pick me up for the record.
To conclude the album, Asa chose one of her more toned down tracks to date with “Questions”. Its melody like a trance and contemplative in its words, the song leaves the listener with a portrait of an artist who uses her music for far more than simply entertainment.
Asa knows how to cover the whole emotional spectrum with an album, and Beautiful Imperfection proves this more than ever before. From the blindly joyous (“Why Can’t We”, “Be My Man”, etc.) to the reflective (“Dreamer Girl” and “Questions”) to the heartbreaking (“Baby Gone”), there is a song for every emotion a person can experience on a day to day basis.
Top tracks include “Preacher Man”, “The Way I Feel”, and “Bimpe”.
Matt Fox, Contributor